The New Infrastructure Programme

This programme is now closed.

Strengthening and renewing infrastructure to be fit for the future
We’ll give between 8 and 10 infrastructure organisations a package of funding, combined with on-site coaching and expertise provided by a Design Lab over 12 months. The Design Lab will be a dedicated team which will provide expert advice and practical support.

Infrastructure organisations support informal groups, local social action, specialist communities, and voluntary and community sector organisations across the UK. Although they may work directly with communities too, that’s not their only purpose. We’re looking to fund two different types of infrastructure organisations - established and emerging.

For established infrastructure organisations, the Design Lab will support organisational redesign and renewal. For emerging infrastructure organisations, it’ll help strengthen efforts and build additional capacity.

Suitable for
Infrastructure organisations that support voluntary and community sector organisations across the UK.
Funding size
Up to £50,000
Total available
£400,000 (around 8 to 10 grants in total)
Application deadline


How to apply

The New Infrastructure programme is now closed

We're no longer accepting applications for the New Infrastructure programme. If you submitted an application, we might get in touch to ask more questions. We'll contact you to let you know whether we'll fund your project by the end of February 2021.

If you have any questions in the meantime 
Contact us at

What happens after you apply?

  1. You send us your application – we’ll assess your application. We expect a huge amount of demand for this funding, so we'll have to make some tough decisions around what projects to take forward.
  2. We’ll take some early decisions about the applications that best meet our priorities.
  3. If youre invited to the next stage, we’ll ask for more information about your project – we’ll email you asking for a short form with more details about your organisation and a more detailed budget. We'll use the information in this form to update our records and complete some security checks. (Find out more about the checks we do.) We’ll also arrange a chat with you. This will help us to make a final decision on whether to award funding.
  4. We’ll make a decision – a panel of our staff and leaders will make a decision. We’ll try to tell you our decision by the end of February 2021.
  5. If your application is successful – we'll contact you with the good news! Once you’ve been awarded funding from us, here’s what to expect. This page will also let you know about the things you need to do.

How will the programme work?  

Each organisation selected will have a grant of up to £50,000 available to cover their costs. This might cover costs incurred over the year as they make changes to how they work, and/or to cover the costs of time spent working with the Design Lab. The Design Lab will have a dedicated team, working full-time across all the infrastructure organisations, offering coaching and expertise over the course of the programme.

What will the Design Lab offer?
The Design Lab will offer coaching and expertise in the following areas:

  • identifying what to stop doing
  • new skills and capabilities
  • better use of digital tools and data
  • becoming user centred
  • content design and different channels for distribution of content
  • approaches for testing, experimenting and iterating
  • support to become more responsive and able to continually adapt
  • using data more effectively
  • better segmentation of users
  • service audits
  • building partnerships.

How much money is available?
We’ll be awarding up to £50,000 to each of the infrastructure organisations. We expect to fund around 8 to 10 organisations.

Who can apply

You can apply if your infrastructure organisation does at least one of these:

  • supports voluntary and community sector organisations, networks, groups and/or communities  
  • develops the work and capacity of civil society organisations and groups  
  • convenes and advocates on behalf of the sector and the communities you serve  
  • connects local organisations to assets and wealth.   

In particular, we want to fund two different types of infrastructure organisation: 

  • established infrastructure organisations 
  • emerging infrastructure organisations.  

Established infrastructure organisations
We define established infrastructure organisations as 'local infrastructure, made up of local and regional charities with the main remit of supporting the sector'.  

An established infrastructure organisation must be able to fulfil these criteria:

  • show they’re still playing a vital role in terms of an infrastructure offer
  • show they’re willing to re-imagine and re-deliver what they do in a way that makes use of digital approaches 
  • show a willingness to make changes to trustee and staff teams to make change possible  
  • show organisation-wide commitment to digital change and an understanding of the opportunities and challenges ahead 
  • be frank and detailed about the strengths and weaknesses of digital skills within the applicant organisation 
  • show a generosity of spirit in how they intend to share their learning, technology or opportunities with other civil society organisations 
  • show that their networks and/or membership are active and representative
  • they have a small core team that can demonstrate that, by investing in them to change, there will be a ripple effect in terms of value and impact
  • show how up to £50,000 will free up staff time to engage in the capability building function of the Design Lab and that the work will lead to sustainable change in how they work.

Emerging infrastructure organisations
 We define emerging infrastructure as newer in terms of how long it’s existed for or in terms of its structure (it might be more networked or self-organised for example), or its offers.

An emerging infrastructure organisation must be able to fulfil these criteria:

  • be frank and detailed about the strengths and weaknesses of their skills and the additional capacity that they need
  • be clear and detailed about how additional capacity and funding can benefit them
  • show a generosity of spirit in how they intend to share their learning, technology or opportunities with other new and emerging infrastructure organisations
  • can show that their networks and/or membership are active and representative
  • show how up to £50,000 will stabilise their organisation in order to engage in the Design Lab offer and that the work will lead to sustainable change in how they work.

Your organisation also needs to be a:  

  • voluntary or community organisation  
  • registered charity  
  • constituted group or club  
  • not-for-profit company or community interest company.  

You can apply for this funding, even if your organisation has already applied to us and/or was awarded a grant for round one of the Digital Fund.

We cannot accept applications from: 

  • individuals  
  • sole traders  
  • companies that are aimed at generating profits primarily for private distribution  
  • organisations based outside the UK  
  • applications made by one organisation on behalf of another  
  • schools  
  • statutory bodies (including town, parish and community councils)  
  • organisations that work directly with service users - we're only funding infrastructure organisations, but they might do some front-line work too.   

If you’re not sure if you can apply

Contact us. The team will be happy to help. You can also check what other funding programmes you might be able to apply to.

If you’re unsuccessful

We’ll work with the Design Lab to share learning on our website over the next year.

The projects we fund

This funding is for one year.

What’s the programme about?

For grassroots, community-led and frontline organisations to be adaptive and resilient, we believe there’s a need for a diverse and effective support system (infrastructure organisations). This is especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We want to fund established infrastructure organisations who are ready and willing to change and who still play an important role in the ecosystem, as well as emerging infrastructure organisations that signal what we need more of in the future.

Through the programme, established infrastructure organisations will be able to redesign themselves to become more flexible and responsive to the changing environment. They’ll evolve to become fit for the future, renew their relevance and be better able to support communities.

New and emerging infrastructure organisations will become stronger and more resilient, with a clearer picture of how to sustain themselves.

The programme will also stimulate a much-needed conversation around the ways infrastructure can reinvent itself for the digital age, and the kind of resource and support it needs.

What do we mean by ‘digital’?
The term ‘digital’ is as much about the culture and practice of digital as it is about digital technologies and hardware. It’s about ways of working (working openly and collaboratively) and its capabilities (basing design decisions on evidence and testing with users).

What we can fund
This programme will give each infrastructure organisation the advice and freedom to explore the ways it can reinvent itself for the digital age.

What types of projects we'll prioritise
We'll fund projects that meet our funding priorities, as well as making sure we have a mix of established and emerging infrastructure organisations from across the UK.

Delivering your project in Welsh

If you receive funding from The National Lottery Community Fund for a project in Wales, you'll need to deliver it in Welsh as well as English. Read our guidance on managing your project bilingually.

What you can spend the money on

This funding is to help free up staff and leadership time to engage with the Design Lab process. It could be used for bringing in temporary cover or extending existing posts.

We can fund a wide range of items for one year. This list does not include everything. So, if you’re not sure, contact us.

We can fund:

  • staff costs
  • transport
  • utilities/running costs
  • volunteer expenses.

If you’re invited to the next stage, we’ll talk to you to agree what the funding will cover.

We cannot fund:

  • statutory activities
  • loans, endowments or interest
  • paying someone else to write your application
  • political or religious activities
  • profit-making or fundraising activities
  • VAT you can reclaim
  • alcohol
  • buying or refurbishing buildings, also known as capital funding. If you need capital funding, we offer that on some other funding programmes. Feel free to contact us if you want to chat about this.